Originally published May 24th 2018. Updated January 6th 2021 to reflect changes to the Federal Tax Credit.
Is it feeling a little hot in here? Perhaps it’s because the summer months are quickly approaching, or maybe you just opened up your electricity bill. There are so many wonderful reasons that California is a great place to build a home, but cost of living isn’t one of them. In fact, we have the seventh-highest energy rates in the whole country! As temperatures creep up and air conditioners start humming across the Golden State, electric bills can start creeping up as well. Solar panel installation is a great way to lower your energy bill (and decrease your carbon footprint), but what are some other ways to cool your energy usage and save? Let’s take a look at some easy-to-implement options.
Solar Panel Installation
We are a solar panel company, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that we think solar panels offer you a great solution to lowering or eliminating your electric bill altogether.
Buying Solar Panels for Your House
If you choose to purchase solar panels out-of-pocket, you’ll be making a significant upfront investment, but it will pay off. According to Energy Sage, the average 6 KW (kilowatt) system will cost California residents $11,928 to $15,204 when they take advantage of the federal government’s generous 26% tax rebate (which, unfortunately, won’t last much longer). A 6 KW solar panel system is one of the most common sizes we install, and it covers the energy needs of a typical, mid-sized home.
Buying solar panels for your house isn’t cheap, but the average system pays itself off in seven years. When you keep in mind that solar panels are estimated to last anywhere from 25 to 40 years, you can see the potential for big savings down the road, especially because the panels themselves add value to your home! It’s estimated that over 20 years of life, solar panels can save the average homeowner in Los Angeles $50,000!
Solar Leases and Power Purchase Agreements
Of course, not everyone has $12,000 sitting in their bank account. California residents can still save on electricity by choosing a solar panel lease or a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Both of these options offer no upfront payment. Instead, the solar panel installation company owns the solar panels and charges homeowners a set rate for the energy they use, which is less than what they would pay the electric company. The beauty of this system is that as energy rates increase (and they always do), homeowners with a solar lease or PPA will increase their savings.
Whether you purchase solar panels or choose a solar lease or PPA, you’ll still want to keep your energy usage as low as possible during the long, hot California summer. If you use more energy than the solar power system for your home was designed to produce, you could still end up paying big bucks to the utility companies.
Here are some other tips to lower your energy usage during summer.
Save on Air Conditioning
Nothing feels better on a scorching day than the sweet whisper of cool air pouring through the vents when your air conditioner kicks on. However, your air conditioner also happens to be an energy hog! The typical air conditioner guzzles 15,000 watts of electricity per hour. Compare that to the average desktop computer, which hums along just fine on 400 watts per hour. California charges on average $0.15 per kilowatt, meaning your air conditioning will set you back an average of $2.25 for every hour it’s on. If it’s running six hours a day, you’ll be paying $94.50 every week!
That doesn’t mean you need to unplug your air conditioner for good and resign yourself to the fact that your home will morph into a sweat lodge for the next few months. Instead, there are a few simple things you can do to reign in the costs.
Change Your Air Conditioning Filter
You do know that you’re supposed to change out the filter on your air conditioner every three months, right? Filters are cheap (usually less than $10 each) and can improve the efficiency of your air conditioner. New filters can also make your home cleaner by filtering out dust and other outdoor irritants.
Increase Your Air Conditioning Temperature
In a perfect world, you’d put your air conditioning on the minute the temperature ticked up to 72 degrees, but let’s be honest. You can probably survive just fine without air conditioning for another two or three degrees, right? If you can cut the amount of time you use your air conditioning just one hour each day by setting your air conditioning on a higher temperature, the average Californian could save nearly $70 a month!
Don’t Cool Empty Rooms
If you’re the only one in the house, or you and your family are heading to bed, close the vents in the other rooms. There’s no need for your air conditioner to cool off your microwave in the kitchen or your couch in the living room!
Use a Fan
Another smart idea is to take advantage of a fan, which uses much less energy. If you have a ceiling fan, turn it on. You might be surprised how just getting a nice breeze can help you feel much cooler. If you don’t have a ceiling fan, invest in a floor fan or even a desktop fan. This option is especially good if you are home alone and don’t want to go through the hassle of closing all the vents. Now you can keep the temperature in your room comfortable without having to turn on the air conditioning to cool the entire house!
A Few Other Cost-Saving Tips
Making the changes above to how you use your air conditioner can help you save on electricity costs in the summer, but that’s not all you can do. Here are a few more quick tips that you can use to cut your energy usage all year round.
Play the Variable Price Game
Some utility companies throughout California have been rolling out “variable pricing,” which increases the cost of electricity during certain set times of the day when demand is the highest. Find out if you have a variable price plan and then determine which time periods will cost you the most. It shouldn’t be too hard to run the dishwasher or the washer and dryer outside of those hours.
Limit Your Hungriest Power Users
Your air conditioning unit isn’t the only device in your home that loves to gobble up electricity. Your washer and dryer use 4,000 watts per hour and your water pump uses 3,000 watts per hour. So make sure you fill up the washer with each load. If you have half a load ready to go, see if you can double up with one of your family members. (Just don’t let them talk you into folding all their socks and underwear too!)
Also, if you have a heated pool or jacuzzi that you only use on the weekends, pull the plug during the week. If no one’s using it, don’t spend energy and money on it!
Turn Off the Lights
Let the long hours of daylight give you all the illumination you need for as long as the sun is up. Lightbulbs, especially the energy-efficient LED bulbs that most of us use, only sip small amounts of energy, but it can still add up. According to Spark Energy, 10 lightbulbs running for six hours a day will cost you $120 a year. That’s not exactly a king’s ransom, but we bet you can find a lot of better ways to use that money. Plus, lowering your energy bill is only part of the benefit of using less energy. By flipping off your light switch, you can also lower the amount of carbon you contribute to the environment.
It’s Time to Save
There are all sorts of ways that you can cut your energy usage this summer and save on your electric bill. Some tips are as easy as flicking off a light switch in an unoccupied room or running the dishwasher an hour later. Others will require a bigger investment, like solar panel installation, which will pay off big in the end. Every step you take to cut power is a step in the right direction to lower your energy bills and to be a little more energy wise.
We hope that you and your family have an amazing summer! And if now is the time for you to invest in solar power for your home, please give us a call to schedule a free energy analysis.